Girls Like You Make Us Look Bad

November 7, 2007
By Ashley Messinger, Stafford, VA

A tall, thin girl dressed in the latest fashion, her face covered with makeup, walks down the hall. This girl has a group of friends who all seem to have the right style, know all the right things to say, and everyone wants to be like them. This girl is known as the (typical) popular girl. For centuries people have wanted to be this kind of person. Admired, looked at, even envied. Unfortunately the behind the scenes reality is not as pretty. Hate and loathing is a primary emotion that drives popularity to become a hurtful and damaging.
During my fifth grade year I became friends with a girl in my class named Anna. The next school year came and we all graduated from being the all powerful fifth graders to being the small insignificant sixth graders. During this transition phase everyone started to change. Bodies developed and a need for popularity started to grow. With a new need to fit in, people started hurting others to gain status. I experienced a full blown example of this cruelty. Half way into my sixth grade year, Anna and I were eating lunch on a school bench when she turned and looked at me with a stubborn look on her face. I asked her what was wrong and she told me that she no longer wanted to be my friend; instead she wanted to hang out with the popular girls. I was shocked and hurt. With tears welling up within my eyes, I wondered how this had happened to me. Within the day I found myself a social outcast. Regrettably, I am not the only girl to have been hurt by the social ladder of the teen years.
Usually beginning around the time girls reach middle school social groups start to form. Days of being friends with someone because they shared their cookies with you start to end and the hurtful cycle of being popular starts to take effect. Because they want a place to belong, girls start forming these groups called cliques. If you look up the definition of “cliques” on Google it will tell you that it is an informal and restrictive social form of ruling. Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes says there are seven levels of the clique scale. The top and head girl is called the Queen Bee. She is the ruling girl who- because of money, looks, charisma and other desirable traits- can be looked to as the leader. The second in command is called the “sidekick.” This is the girl who wants to be just like the Queen Bee. She wants to look like the Queen, talk like the Queen, and be just as popular as the Queen. Then there is the “floater,” this girl is friends with a lot of different groups and belongs to each one. There is another girl, the “torn bystander” who, although she knows better and might want to do the right thing, will do things that aren’t right because she feels that her allegiance to her friends is more important. The “pleaser/wanna be/messenger” is just that, she will do anything to get on the Queen’s good side. The “banker” is the girl with all the latest gossip; her role is to tell the group every story, true or untrue. Finally there is the “target.” This is the girl who is the victim of the clique’s wrath.

This last role that I have described is not just for a single girl, and being in a clique will not exempt any girl from feeling the wrath of jealousy or ignorance from other girls. Putting others down is how a lot of girls feel better about themselves. When talking about cliques, Amy Goldman Koss, author of The Girls, said "My theory is that all the other animals can poke each other with their horns when jockeying for position, but this is what girls do and have always done to get their position in the social scheme."

Unfortunately girls do not just put others down. They put themselves down too. Last year as I was talking to my best friend the subject of our bodies came up. She said she felt that her bust wasn’t “big enough.” I recently talked to her over the summer and during the time since last year, she has developed; now she says she feels “too big.” There will always be something for people to find wrong about themselves. In a study published in the New York Times, 3,700 breast implants were performed on teen girls in the year 2003. Studies showed that about 3,300 teen girls had overly-developed breasts reduced. According to the Nemours foundation, 333,000 people age 18 years and younger got plastic surgery in 2005. The most common procedures are otoplasty(pinning back ears), dermobrasion(to help hide acne scars), and breast reduction. This means that more and more girls are becoming “fake” in order to fit into the clone like groups of popularity, instead of finding individual beauty to fit in.

The media is in no way helping this problem. In fact, the media is adding gas to the fire. Pictures of unhealthy, skinny models and articles that talk about losing weight portray an image to girls that tell them they aren’t good enough. “Adolescent girls who frequently read dieting articles in magazines are more likely to engage in unhealthy weight control…” A study on this theory was done by Patricia Van Den Berg, PH.D of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and was found to be true. Although the effect was more prominent with less socially accepted girls or in girls who already disliked their bodies, the girls studied showed signs of dieting, bulimia, and disliking their physical appearance. Every day on the television, posters, Internet, and other places, pictures of stick thin women with “perfect” bodies are shown. The truth is that the average U.S American model is 5 foot 10 inches weighing 107 lbs. while the average North American woman is 5 foot 4 inches weighing 143 lbs. These models are not realistic. The wrong message is being sent to girls starting at a young age. The popular dolls today, known as Bratz, are a perfect example of this. Curvy girls in too much makeup and too little clothing are sending young girls the message that all girls need to look like little Angelina Jolie clones.
In order to get the super small bodies that are so craved, girls will go to extreme methods. Anorexia is one of the popular and dangerous illnesses. Unfortunately along with the illness comes attention and sometimes popularity. In USA Today there was a story of a girl who asked how much weight had to be lost to be anorexic. This shows her concern was not with her health but with her popularity. Popularity is physically harming too many teen girls. As they try to fit in and change themselves teen girls conform to unhealthy eating habits.
The tall thin girl who seems to have it all really doesn’t. Her friends are really enemies all fighting for her position by tearing each other down. When she looks in a mirror she hates what she sees. Never happy with her physical appearance she will go through anything in order to look just like the twig like models on television. This girl is looked at by many to be almost “perfect,” but in truth she is far form it. I’ve experienced a lot when it comes to teen girls, and I have learned that popularity isn’t everything. What matters is having friends who like you for who you are and are willing to support you as well as help you like yourself.

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This article has 1 comment.

Moureliah said...
on Sep. 30 2009 at 8:55 pm
I totally agree with you. Girls are under sooo much pressure to look good these days. We need to accept ourselves the way we are and no obsess over what we "should" look like.


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